“Due to the war, my family spent a few years in Austria as refugees prior to coming to Australia…”
Although the Australian public has a very controversial view on refugees, ‘refugee week’ has a positive meaning to me as a platform to remind the wider public about the contributions and enrichment of the entire community provided by all of us who came to this country as refugees. I would like to use this opportunity to say that the word refugee was actually first used for ‘refugees’ who were white Protestants and was not always such a dirty word.
I was born in Croatia but I am from Bosnia and Herzegovina, it just happened at time I was born, that my family lived on the border between these two former Yugoslavian republics and hospital happened to be on the other side of the river in Croatia. In former Yugoslavia, before the war, I had a small business and was trained as a lawyer. Due to the war, my family spent a few years in Austria as refugees prior to coming to Australia. I came to Australia with my 8 year old daughter and my sister.
Everyone makes sacrifices in life, but sacrifices for safety are a primal instinct for any human being and we would do anything to reach it. Unfortunately, at the time we were accepted into Australia, our parents were rejected to come with us due to my mum’s health issues. Even though my parents did not have any other children to care for them we could not get the decision overturned, it was so difficult to leave them behind.
Our arrival in Australia was not easy, that is why years after I arrived here I joined other founding directors to create World Wellness Group. I wish there was such a thing when I first came to Brisbane, for my family and the many others who needed the care WWG provides. For years I had been helping other refugees to settle and learn about the society, doing as much as I could as an individual to promote health and well being of migrants and refugees.
The ideas and intentions from the first WWG seeds we planted, came from an understanding that health for all migrants and refugees needed to be more equitable and just. Health is a human right and there should always be access and equally appropriate mental and physical health care provided to all people no matter their background. We can achieve this by involving consumers in the conversation and creating a culturally safe and appropriate health environment for all people to enjoy.
While in Australia I have completed a few courses starting with Advanced Diploma in Community and Human Services, Master in Public Health, Graduate Cert. in Migration Law, Cert. in Training and Education and Cert. in Volunteering Management. I still sit on the board of World Wellness Group, which I am proud to say has grown from strength to strength each year of its evolution. Apart from my position on the board of directors, I am also currently involved in health promotion work through WWG programs and I am also involved in research, which is my passion.
I am not sure what advice I would give someone who arrived as a refugee in Brisbane today, the environment is ever changing as well as the job opportunities. Today looking back I think that first generation migrants in most of the cases have it tough. The younger one is when they arrive, the more opportunities there are. If I could change something it would be for me to have never needed to leave my country in the first place. Sometimes, I am very upset when people think that needing to move and leave everything you know is always one’s choice. From my experience many people regret later in life that they lived life so far from their families and friends and wished they never left. But at the time there was no choice.
There is nothing or everything I would change around welcome to Brisbane, it is so complex and as we know one size does not fit all. We need a wider education to all Australians about the history of this continent starting with indigenous people, English, Irish, Chinese and all other settlers who all contributed to the Australia we know now.
Multicultural Peer Support Worker
“The hardest thing about this story is that I left behind my parents along with all my memories with my friends…”
Administration & Reception Worker
“Due to lack of safety and instability caused by the war, I had to resign for a while…”
“I lived in a Tanzanian refugee camp with my parents, seven siblings and one uncle…”
Multicultural Peer Engagement Coordinator
“My journey starts in my late teenage years when my physical health began to decline…”
There are many ways to be part of the solution. Contributing monetary gifts, expertise, social capital and time are just some of the ways you can be part of our work to create health equity in Australia.